News Archive – December 2015

Southeast Asia Launches Huge Trade Bloc
ASEAN map_1Group’s Goals Mirror European Union’s 1950s-era Forerunner
Wall Street Journal, Dec 29, 2015 – Ten Southeast Asian nations start an ambitious, U.S.-backed experiment on Thursday: integrating their economies in a bid to bring more global sway and prosperity to the region’s 622 million citizens…. Over time, the countries, all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, plan to boost economic ties by further lowering tariffs and allowing a freer flow of labor, services and capital across a region stretching 3,900 miles between the Pacific and Indian oceans…. The group’s goals mirror the European Union’s 1950s-era forerunner, another geopolitical bloc whose members suffered decades of strife before uniting. As in Europe, fuller integration could take decades.

SAARC Flagsaarc-mapSAARC:
Lahore bonhomie
Economy dictates run of events. ‘K’ stays in the run though distant
Greater Kashmir, Dec 29, 2015 – South Asia is feeling the heat, as economies beyond SAARC are looking for zippers. Economic weaving is on a fast track, with the energy need transcending borders. Kashmir stays obsessed with its own need–a comprehensive, lasting solution….
‘TAPI’ spells a gas pipeline, encompassing Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and hold your breath–Pakistan and India. While Nawaz Shrief was present in person at the ‘TAPI’ inaugural in Central Asia, Narendra Modi stayed back home, in spite of his flair for personalized diplomacy.

Are we ready for AEC?
AsiaOne, Dec 29, 2015 – Regional governments will reach a milestone at the end of this year, when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is launched – at least in name. But for businesses, the date will pass without fanfare as ASEAN has yet to deliver on many of its targets for the ambitious trade pact across the 10 ASEAN member nations….
“The AEC implementation deadline is not a static goal – rather, it is the beginning of an ongoing journey to transform the ASEAN states into a single market and production base, and become more competitive and connected with other trading blocs.”

EU-flagEU 'Tower of Babel' 330 x 467EUROPEAN UNION:
A toast to Europe and its ideals
Reports of the impending disunion of Europe are exaggerated
The Straits Times (Singapore), Dec 28, 2015 – ….However, as is often the case when “received wisdom” takes a hold, the story of Europe’s decline and impending doom is much exaggerated…. In short, far from splintering the EU, the euro tussle has added another layer of glue to existing European institutions. And the same can be said about the crisis that overshadowed the second half of this year, the one prompted by the vast inflow of refugees.
The “order out of chaos” Jean Monnet method of incrementally breaking down the sovereignty of nation-states to cause their surrender to a centrally controlled European super-state is working as planned.

saarc-mapSAARC FlagSAARC:
Modi makes surprise visit to Pakistan on Sharif’s birthday

Asia Times, Dec 25, 2015 – Indian premier Narendra Modi landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport Friday on a surprise visit, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were present to receive him. This is the first time an Indian premier has visited Pakistan in more than a decade. Television footage showed Modi exit his jet and embrace PM Sharif, after which the two heads flew in a helicopter to Sharif’s private residence in Raiwind.
PM Modi’s Lahore Visit Step In The Right Direction: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed – NDTV (New Delhi, India), Dec 25, 2015 – Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, saying it is a step in the right direction…. This initiative, besides being a great step towards improvement of bilateral relations, will also give impetus to the concept of SAARC, he added.

ASEAN Economic Community prepares for December launch
ASEAN map_1The Hill, Dec 22, 2015 – On Dec. 31, 2015, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will launch the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The AEC is a monumental effort to integrate Southeast Asian economies by creating a unified, cross-border market and production base. But while the AEC prepares to declare its many successes, Southeast Asia still faces significant obstacles to full integration…. The AEC allows for the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labor across borders.
Remember the “European Economic Community” before it became the European Union? Despite denials, the goal in Southeast Asia is a geopolitical jurisdiction like the EU.

Distribution of ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to begin in January 2016
‘Citizens can live and reside in any ECOWAS country without giving any other document’
AU - African Union &, Dec 21, 2015 – The Chairman of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, recently presented samples of the new ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards …. According to a report in ECOWAS-MAPLeadership while announcing that the distribution of the ID card will commence on the 1st of January, 2016, Ouedraogo stated that “it is the responsibility of each member state to issue the ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to it(s) citizens”. He added that the biometric identity card replaces residential permit and removed the need for the use of visas to encourage free movement of people in the region. Ouedraogo said that “these cards will also serve as travel documents and they will replace the resident permit and citizens can live and reside in any ECOWAS country without giving any other document”.
Currency depreciation and diverging inflation rates block the road to monetary union in Africa
Lessons from Greece and the Eurozone
London School of Economics, Dec 22, 2015 – The chase for regional monetary unions seems to be part of Africa’s 21st century holy grail…. The enduring lesson from the challenges facing the Eurozone should be one ─ getting regional integration right is more important than getting it quickly, and economic blocs in Africa should take cognizance of the same.

GCC flaggulf_cooperation_council_v20GCC:
How United Is Saudi Arabia’s New Anti-Terror Coalition?, Dec 18, 2015 – A United Arab Emirates government official told Defense News that the countries that have been briefed and accepted membership in the coalition are the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Those members will start coordination at the level of ministries of foreign affairs, the official said….
The announcement of the coalition appeared to catch US officials by surprise — but, perhaps, it shouldn’t, as the idea may have come from a recent visit to the region by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

EU-flagEU - european_union_mapEUROPEAN UNION:
EU referendum will be in 2016, David Cameron signals as he prepares to campaign for Britain to stay
The Telegraph (London, UK), Dec 18, 2015 – The EU referendum will take place next year, David Cameron has signalled as he prompted fury from eurosceptic backbenchers by making clear he intends to campaign for Britain to remain in the bloc. The Prime Minister said that staying in a reformed European Union is “vital” for Britain’s economic and national security, triggering rumours that Cabinet ministers are poised to resign in protest…. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said that last night Mr Cameron had conceded he could not discriminate against EU citizens, which calls into question his ability to secure a four-year ban on all EU migrants claiming benefits. Almost all of Mr Cameron’s 27 EU counterparts have said Mr Cameron’s plans are “discriminatory.”

Lavrov: Eurasian Economic Union has potential for expansion
‘All continents have been seized by integration processes’
TASS (Russia), Dec 16, 2015 – The new integration association — the EAEU — started operating on January 1, 2015. Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia make part of the EAEU….
“All those who accuse us and our partners of attempts to recreate something imperial on the post-Soviet space probably deliberately ignore the fact that integration became the call of the times everywhere, on a global scale,” he said. “All continents have been seized by integration processes.”
The top Russian diplomat said “the processes should be open, as we have done in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU], and not secret and behind-the-scenes when a ‘club of the elect’ is established, which is closed for all the others, like our American colleagues do on the Pacific and Atlantic spaces — jointly with the EU.”

GCC flagGCC:
In a first, six Gulf states to tax people
GCC Bloc Introduces Regional Tax on Member Nations
gulf_cooperation_council_v20Times of India, Dec 15, 2015 – ix Gulf states have said they will tax their citizens for the first time in a radical policy shift. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — a loose fedration of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — has agreed to introduce VAT following costly military campaigns and a drop in global oil prices…. To limit smuggling and competetiveness, the countries aim to introduce the tax at the same time.
Saudi Arabia unveils antiterrorism coalition
Financial Times (London, UK), Dec 15, 2015 – The alliance is mainly formed of Sunni-majority Muslim states, including powerful armed nations such as Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan and most of the Gulf Cooperation Council states.The creation of the alliance marks another step in Saudi Arabia’s quest for the role of regional policeman. Riyadh, a target of Sunni Islamic radical group Isis, is also concerned about the expansion of interference in the Arab world of its Shia rival Iran…. Saudi Arabia has come under criticism for exporting radical Wahhabi Islamic doctrine that intersects with some of the beliefs espoused by radical groups such as Isis.
New push for Gulf Union – Gulf Digital News (Manama, Bahrain), Dec 14, 2015 – Conditions are now ripe to establish the Gulf Union, said the Premier yesterday. This came as His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa received at Gudaibiya Palace GCC Secretary-General Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani, who briefed him about the resolutions issued by Gulf leaders to enhance co-operation in the political, economic, security and military fields.
Gulf Arab Leaders Push For EU-Style ‘Middle East Union’ At GCC Summit
A Borderless Union, Inspired by the European Union
International Business Times, Dec 11, 2015 – Gulf leaders are working on the formation of an EU-style union for the Middle East. Leaders at the 46th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh Thursday pushed for a borderless union, apparently inspired by the European Union.
The GCC green-signalled the proposal with the hope that more countries would join. The summit focused on the social, political, economic and security integration of the gulf countries.
GCC chases ‘Gulf union’ dream at Riyadh summit – Khaleej Times (Dubai, UAE), Dec 11, 2015 – The Arab Gulf leaders on Thursday resolved to push ahead with their integration agenda in order to realise the dream of a borderless union. The 46th Gulf Cooperation Council summit conference, held under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, decided to give the go-ahead for full integration between any member countries, hoping that others would join the union bandwagon…. A communiqué issued by the leaders said the summit focused on the concept of integration – economic, political, social, military and security – that would ultimately lead to a union.

East African Court of Justice wants more cooperation from members
EAC - MAPThe Guardian (IPP Media, Tanzania), Dec 11, 2015 – The President of the East AU - African Union & Sub-RegionsAfrican Court of Justice Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja has underscored the need for joint efforts among partner States in the rule of law chain to develop a strong and sustainable East African integration….
“…it is the law that allows free and efficient movement within the internal market and it is also within the legal framework that the political actors meet and interact.”
“Because of the importance of law, regional integration requires good cooperation between all the Partner States in the rule of law chain Judges, lawyers, civil servants, academics, business and individuals, we must all contribute to make the EAC integration a legal reality,” the court President urged.

GCC flagGCC:
US ready to send advisers, helicopters to help retake Iraq city
Gulf-Cooperation-CouncilEnvisions a ‘Sunni Arab Combined Force’
France 24, Dec 10, 2015 – Carter acknowledged a missing element in the campaign: a more assertive role by Sunni Arab allies from the Gulf in the effort against Islamic State, a Sunni extremist group. He said the United States had spoken to Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at a Camp David summit in the spring about creating a “Sunni Arab combined force” to help in the fight.
‘Time Of Looking The Other Way IS OVER’: German Official Comes Unglued On Radical Mosques
Daily Caller, Dec 7, 2015 – German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel pulled no punches Sunday denouncing Saudi Arabian funding of radical mosques abroad. “From Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi mosques are financed throughout the world,” reports the Express Tribune…. Saudi Arabian connections to radical Islam have been a subject of contention since the attacks on 9/11 when it was discovered that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. It is claimed that the Saudi Arabian government spent over $100 billion promoting Wahhabi Islam across the Middle East region.
Is this Really our Conflict? – Middle East Online (London, UK), Dec 8, 2015 – Saudi Arabia’s military counter-strategy is unambiguously founded on the struggle against the Shia. Like other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it cannot position ISIS as the principal threat without risking popular opposition at home…. Saudi Arabia is not about to use ground troops against ISIS when it has 150,000 deployed on the border with Yemen. ISIS’s next goal should be to establish the religious legitimacy of its “caliph” …. This puts ISIS into direct competition with the other power that claims to head the umma and represent Islam — Saudi Arabia — and it’s likely that once the Shia zones have been captured, the “caliph” will set his sights on that country. The western strategy based on airstrikes and training local fighters has failed in Syria and Iraq, as it did in Afghanistan. This shows the exogenous character of European and US objectives in the internal crises of the Arab-Muslim world. The greater the military engagement, the greater the risk of terrorism before an inevitable, devastating confrontation between ISIS and Saudi Arabia. Is this really our war?
Pierre Conesa is a senior lecturer at Sciences Po, Paris, a former senior official of the French defence ministry and author of “Quelle politique de contre-radicalisation en France?”, www., 2014, andGuide du petit djihadiste, Fayard, Paris, 2016. Translated by Charles Goulden.

DPM proposes standard system for Asean
Like the European Union
The Star (Malaysia), Dec 4, 2015 – Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has proposed that Asean countries provide a uniform screening system at all entry points as exercised by European Union countries to curb infiltration of transnational criminals, terrorists and illegal immigrants. He said every Asean member should have an advanced passenger screening system, biometric identification system and facial recognition scanner in line with the formation of the Asean Community this month. ASEAN map_1
ASEAN leaders to hold historic US summit in first half of 2016
Channel News Asia, Dec 2, 2015 – The leaders of ten Southeast Asian nations will visit the United States in the first half of 2016 for a special summit with US President Barack Obama, according to the US ambassador to the region. President Obama invited the leaders from the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) during his visit to the region for the East Asia Summit in Manila and the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November, a further effort to refocus the United States’ so-called pivot towards Asia. US Ambassador to ASEAN, Nina Hachigian said there would be more announcements in coming weeks about the exact timing and agenda of the historic summit, the first between the US and ASEAN leaders on American soil.
ASEAN Community is almost here – Japan Times, Dec 2, 2015 – Southeast Asian leaders in their summit late last month declared that the ASEAN Community will be launched on Dec. 31. Compared with the European Union, which involves transfer of some state sovereignty to the union and the use of a common currency for most of its members, the ASEAN Community will be a rather loose supranational grouping…. While the ASEAN Community aims to achieve integration in three areas — economic, political and security, and social and cultural affairs — it is unclear at this stage how the members will pursue community-building except in the economic arena because of their vast political, ethnic and religious diversity.
Time to revisit Asean Way as road to regional community – The Nation (Thailand), Dec 2, 2015 – The Asean Community (AC) will be established at the end of this year. For people in Thailand and in many other Asean member countries, all the focus is on the economy and the Asean Economic Community. There is little talk and little awareness of the political-security and socio-cultural fronts, the other two pillars of the Community. Yet all three pillars are essential for a true community to take shape.


Infrastructure projects may become a good basis for a long-term successful and multipronged economic cooperation between the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Chairman of the Eurasian Investment Council Alexander Dolgov said at the Second Eurasian Economic Congress in Moscow on 1 December, BelTA informs.
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Infrastructure projects may become basis for economic cooperation in EEU
Belarus News, Dec 2, 2015 -Infrastructure projects may become a good basis for a long-term successful and multipronged economic cooperation between the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Chairman of the Eurasian Investment Council Alexander Dolgov said at the Second Eurasian Economic Congress in Moscow on 1 December, BelTA informs.

nafta-flagNORTH AMERICA:
Donald Trump Faces Immigration Backlash from Tech-Billionaires
NAU - Caution SignBreitbart, Dec 1, 2015 – Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his Internet-billionaire friends really don’t want Donald Trump to be president because he will block their plans to increase immigration above the current inflow of 1 million people per year, according to a report from Politico….
In 2013 and 2014, Jesmer—a former director of the GOP Senators’ campaign-funding committee—relied heavily on skewed polls to persuade some Republicans to back his bosses’ failed push to import 33 million more wage-reducing, productivity-cutting, welfare-supported workers who double as taxpayer-subsidized consumers. That push failed because it was so unpopular in all corners of America that GOP voters in Virginia ejected the GOP’s Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor in his June 2014 primary, while other voters ejected five Zuckerberg-backed Democratic Senators in November. In fact, the bill was so unpopular that Trump jumped into the wide-open 2016 race, which he is now leading because of his promise to build a border wall and to enforce immigration laws.

SAARC Flagsaarc-mapSAARC:
Modi, Sharif had hour-long ‘secret’ meeting during Saarc 2014
Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), Dec 1, 2015 – A year ago all that the people saw was a quick handshake but away from TV cameras Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif held an hour-long secret meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Kathmandu. Both the leaders shared their constraints while agreeing they needed more time and greater political space to move forward with public engagements. The meeting was facilitated by Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, who is the brother of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal.

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